Author: Ashley

Change of costume to perception of self

After changing to uniforms, the veterans almost immediately looked different — “with their raggedy haircuts hidden by field caps and berets, they were impossible to mess” (p.219) — or became (from a mass, a background) individuals, and the narrator explained this was because by wearing uniforms they restored their manhood. It is curious that a simple change of outfit made such a difference, and the change of outfit not only hid their poor status, but also gave, or rather let them regain their status as soldiers, as valuable people who could stand out from the ordinary. Being viewed as refugees and inferiors, they were not able to get jobs that could sustain their former socioeconomic status, and consequently fit only more into the refugee stereotype, and so poverty and doubts from the Americans, their families, and probably mostly themselves weighed them down. Now in this instance of the book, although the Americans who were the first to look down on them were not present, yet they gained their lost confidence as if the Americans were looking at them, astonished by their change. Maybe the switch of the costume was a switch of identity, so that as Vietnamese soldiers they no longer depended on the Americans’ view of them, and their inferiority compared to other Americans just ceased to exist because there was no comparison, or they would not need to do the comparison of them against American citizens.

Becoming human through identity crisis

The movie never mentioned if Rachael was a Nexus 6 or a more advanced version of replicant, but while it usually takes “20, 30 cross-referenced” (21:47) questions to detect a replicant, it took more than 100 for Rachael. Deckard’s immediate reply: “she doesn’t know” (21:53) seems to provide the reason for the difference in Rachael and other replicants if they are of the same technological level, and then Rachael’s self-awareness as a person actually made her more human, at least according to the test. However, her facial expression more or less remained the same, and several instances of her burst of emotions actually happened after she realized that she was a replicant, for example, her tears while she learned that her memory was implanted, and her fear and shaking hands after shooting Leon. It seems almost ironic that the challenge to her identity as a human being infused emotional responses in her so that she was closer to human beings as if it were the internal conflicts, the self-doubting, that made a human. Probably it’s her unique experience to live a life of a human as a replicant, not completely one or the other, that enabled her to doubt the reliability of the text, asking Deckard if he had taken that test himself, and by doing so, challenging the line between a replicant and a human, which was delicately vague for her.

Shaped by appearance

A vicious cycle began when Pecola, as a member of the ugly Breedloves family, was convinced by others’ judgement of her as ugly, but then the ugliness lied not in her appearance but rather in her lack of confidence, or rather, realization of her beauty, so that her internal conception of self was projected to her exterior, confirming people’s view. Her obsession of blue eyes — “if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different” (p.46) — showed how she accepted people’s impression of her and even managed to justify their accounts by attributing her ugliness to her eyes. Curiously, while taking others’ impression as a starting point to shape her personalities to others’ expectation, she was convinced that by having blue eyes, she could in some way flip the situation and start to influence others, for example, stopping her parents’ fights. She was aware that there was something missing in her and knew what caused her ugliness was the hindrance to actively participating in human interactions, but she identified the key to the problem as her eyes, a thing that she learned from those who first put the label of ugliness in her. Yet so far the book had not put forward a particular character or a certain group of characters who “taught” Pecola about her ugliness, while people could easily recognize it and Pecola herself treating it as if it was natural.

Unreliability regardless knowledge of the future

     There seem to be two lines of narration in the book: the text which is an older Alison’s account of past events, and the pictures that showed things that were actually taking place, and therefore the textual narration could provide readers with information of events that had not yet happened in the pictures. The older Alison could be more reliable than the younger one in sense of her knowledge of “future,” for example she foretold her father’s death — “It’s true that he didn’t kill himself until I was nearly twenty/But his absence resonated retroactively, echoing back through all the time I knew him”(23) — but it does not give her full credit as a reliable narrator. The older Alison attributed his father’s death to suicide, yet combined with her confession— “It’s possible that we chose to believe this because it was less painful” — which showed the cause of her father’s death was indeterminate, the readers could see her probably subconscious attempt to filter past events and her awareness of her subjectivity. Similarly, when the older Alison commented on the motive or feeling of the younger Alison, she filled in psychological activities which the dialogues and images failed to present, but it could be rather a reinterpretation of the event that we as readers could refer to instead of taking as truth.

Point of view of paranoia

    Though the text was written in the third person, the narration seems to emphasize Oedipa’s point of view, since there’s a lot of description of her mental activity and emotions, while others’ psychology was only implied by their actions and potentially Oedipa’s view of them. It strikes me as interesting that there seem to be so many people whose psychological states were not so stable, and I was not sure whether it was because Oedipa, who showed and was aware of her paranoia symptoms, was more sensitive to those with similar problems, and was more able to identify them, as when she told Miles that he was a paranoia just after exchanging a few sentences. Di Presso claimed “they bug your apartment, they tap your phone” (p.48) after learning the girls were listening, but I see no clear logic to lead to this remark, and it appears much like Di Presso was at least somehow paranoid, extending being probably accidentally overheard to a constant state of being supervised, which may or may not be the case, but nobody present seemed to be surprised at his reaction. I wonder if it could be Oedipa filtering the information she receives: conversations, events, actions, etc. and presenting them to the readers in a way that made it felt like many were paranoid while actually, Oedipa was the only one with paranoia.

An Old Man to Another

     The invisible man’s effort to get rid of his grandfather’s influence was visible from the beginning of the book, and so when he saw his grandfather in Brother Tarp — “Framed there in the gray, early morning light of the door, my grandfather seemed to look from his eyes.” (384) — he was so shocked that for a while he could not look into Brother Tarp’s eyes. His grandfather had been the invisible man’s model except that the former’s last words confused him deeply and became the source of his anxiety; Brother Tarp provided advice to help the invisible man steady his belief and confidence, yet he was not there when so many changes happened and the invisible man needed his help. Both people who had been chosen as a form of guides by the invisible man betrayed him, and the betrayal seemed to me to hint at something which the invisible man unconsciously rejected to consider. With brotherhood’s not-so-noble nature starting to reveal, I wonder if during the process the invisible man would start to examine his beliefs, and how could he reconcile his grandfather’s ideology to his own.

Develpment: The Influence of Identity Change to A Character

     From the beginning of chapter 1 to the end of chapter 4, the protagonist expressed his strong desire to continue and succeed in his education, and even when he was beaten he was still thinking about his speech which helped him get into college. After the protagonist sent Mr. Norton back to campus, he thought about the possibility of him being expelled and claimed: “Here within this quiet greenness I possessed the only identity I had ever known, and I was losing it.”(99). It is highly possible that the “only” identity that the protagonist thought he possessed was that of a student, as one who was struggling to be humble decent like Dr. Bledsoe, but what if he loses this identity? In the prologue, the protagonist never mentioned once about education or humility, suggesting the possible loss of his “only” identity. I am really curious that if it was the loss of the “only” identity that led to the protagonist’s invisibility, or could it be that invisibility came to be at least part of his identity, substituting the former one, and was the character’s change from the obedient student to a cynical man a product of his identity issue.